CES: 8K TV? What Do These Demos Mean for Consumers?

CES 8k TV - H 2016
AP Images

CES 8k TV - H 2016

Those walking around CES in Las Vegas have been bombarded with all sorts of TV technologies and, if you looked closely, some “8K” TVs from manufacturers including LG, Samsung, Hisense and others.

But what does that mean to consumers? And do they want or need it?

An 8K TV means it has resolution that’s a whopping 16 times greater than HDTV — it’s a dazzling, vivid display that will make you feel as if you are looking out a window at real life. "A natural evolution" is how LG's senior vp Nandhu Nahdhakumar describes this technology.

These displays will be large: LG and Samsung both showed 98-inch models, but without pricing or shipment dates. And they will be expensive: I’ve been told the lowest price for 8K TVs could be around $20,000 or $30,000, and prices over $100,000 have been reported.

This isn’t the first time 8K TVs have been previewed at CES, but they are more visible this year than ever before. It’s not surprising, because Japan's government and Japanese public broadcaster NHK are leading an ambitious effort to bring NHK's Super Hi-Vision system — an 8K picture combined with a 22.2-channel surround system — to the country. Plans are to start some test satellite broadcasting with the Rio Olympics in June. Their intent is to have Super Hi-Vision in place for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

The Hollywood studios instead want to entice consumers with a different upgrade that also impressed: a move to 4K resolution (four times that of HD) with high dynamic range. Many such TVs were unveiled this week, and Hollywood content is on the way for digital download as well as the new Ultra HD Blu-Ray format. (U.S. broadcasting is currently an HD standard.)

With both 4K and 8K representing more pixels than HD, it's been argued that there's no viable business model to support production in either format — particularly 8K. Still, we are starting to see the seeds of 8K at the high end.

At CES, Canon showed imagery photographed with its prototype 8K camera system that includes lenses (It has already provided 8K lenses to Japan’s NHK), a camera and recorder.

In related news, camera maker Red announced this week that Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 will be the first feature to use its Weapon camera outfitted with its new 8K Red Dragon sensor.

Meanwhile, Technicolor vp business development Mark Turner points to another CES topic, virtual reality, and says that if headset makers ultimately want to get to that point of truly replicating real life, they would need to get to ideally 8K per eye — a total of 16K.